Tuesday Jan 29, 2013

Change for Charity

In the rare cases where I'm using cash for a purchase, I'll often toss my change into the charity jar.  But for the majority of my purchases, which are via credit or debit, there's no option to "round up for charity." As far as I know, only Toshiba (formerly IBM) ACE builds that capability into their POS.  There's a huge opportunity to allow customers to make donations at the POS, but few retailers want to invest in customizing their POS to handle this.  Integration efforts like this are often costly, and must be re-done whenever the payment processor is changed.

Companies like Mini-Donations, Pennies (UK), or Change Roundup manage the donations, but again, they have to integrate with each different POS or e-commerce product, an expensive proposition.  That's why ARTS is starting a new workteam to build an integration standard.  Our hope is that by defining an XML standard for integrating to POS and e-commerce systems, we will better enable "round up" functionality in the retail industry.  Imagine the good that can come from millions of people donating pennies everyday.  This can provide a steady income for charities that feed the poor, research cancer, and rescue children.

Our kickoff meeting for this workteam takes place February 4th at the San Francisco ARTS meeting where we will write the charter and define the scope.  Then we'll do the work to build the standard with a goal of publishing in the fall (or maybe even sooner).  Anyone that wants to participate can check the ARTS website for membership information.

Tuesday Jan 22, 2013

Picking a Winner for Payments

Probably the most common question I get asked is, "which emerging payment system is best?"  Its a good question, and unfortunately, my crystal ball is a bit cloudy.  Remember, it took credit cards a while before they got traction.  Some of the same things I hear today ("we don't need a new payment scheme," and "it compromises my privacy") I'm hearing in reference to emerging payments.  And just as those complaints eventually quieted, the same thing will happen and people will adopt new ways of paying.  One thing I can say confidently is that the payment landscape will change over the next 3-5 years.

Is NFC dead on arrival? No. I'm not going to count Google, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and MasterCard out this early in the game. They are behind thanks to a lack of NFC support in iPhones, but they are still viable solutions.  With retailers needing to upgrade their POS terminals to accept EMV cards, now is a great time to also install NFC capabilities.  Once there are more NFC readers out there, more and more innovation will occur around them.

PayPal is definitely in the lead since they are able to leverage their e-commerce base of users.  Their lack of reliance on NFC has worked in their favor, at least in the short-term.  Of course if NFC takes off, I'm sure PayPal can add that technology as well.  Their flexibility and reach are strong points.

Google and Isis have great systems, but since they are limited to Android devices they are not serving enough of the market.  That, of course, will improve over time. While all three (Google, Isis, PayPal) are addressing consumer convenience, none are really addressing transaction costs for merchants.  That's where MCX, the retailer led mobile wallet, could shine. Since they are not on the forefront, they have the luxury of watching the market and picking the best ideas.

At the recent NRF conference, MCX representatives said they are planning to use barcodes for payments in order to support all mobile phones.  They are also focused on lowering transaction costs for merchants as well as protecting customer data, something that differentiates them.  The approach sounds right, but they are far behind in development unless they acquire or partner to gain access to an existing wallet.  Best potential of all the solutions, but furthest behind.

I suppose I could put all my retirement savings into one stock, but I'd rather spread the risk across many.  By the same token, there's no reason for retailers to pick winners at this early stage.  The best advice is to get into the game and try supporting one of the new wallets. In many cases, there's funding available to help offset costs.  This invaluable experience will prepare you to take advantage when winners are more apparent.

Thursday Jan 10, 2013

Innovation Labs

Once of the trends I noticed in 2012 was retailers creating standalone innovation labs.  The ones that seem to get the most notice are Walmart Lab and Nordstrom Lab, most likely because they have great marketing to compliment their inventions.  Two new labs that just started are the Staples Velocity Lab and the Home Depot Lab.  In most cases these labs stem from acquiring a start-up, and not wanting to crush the start-up spirit, the retailer keeps the company separate.

Having a separate lab has a few important advantages.  First, since its not part of the larger IT organization it doesn't get sucked into fire fighting, which can be a huge distraction.  Also, its not bogged down by enterprise-class software development processes that tend to slow things down.  An important part of innovation is constant tweaking that can't be documented up-front.  Having labs focused on retail-specific solutions keeps a retailer's edge.

At Oracle Retail we established the Retail Applied Research (RAR) team a couple years ago under the leadership of John Yopp.  They research emerging technology, collaborate with other labs, and convert ideas into prototypes in a nimble fashion.  Their efforts help us better assess the value of ideas and de-risk some of the technology.  This year we'll be demonstrating two of their projects in our booth at NRF.  We'll be demonstrating an Isis payment using NFC with our Mobile POS running on a Verifone sled. Additionally, we'll be showing how voice-response can speed transactions on our Mobile POS.

To foster the innovative spirit, we also have an annual Science Fair in our R&D organization.  Small teams with innovative ideas are given the week of NRF to build prototypes which are then judged based on originality, execution, and presentation.  Last year we had some pretty cool ideas using iPhones and Twitter that led to patent applications.

Technology doesn't stand still, so I'm hoping that more retailers create separate labs to incubate ideas in 2013.  Nobody can afford to stand still.

About


David Dorf, Sr Director Technology Strategy for Oracle Retail, shares news and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on innovation and emerging technologies.


Industry Connect


Stay Connected
Blogroll

Search

Archives
« January 2013 »
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
  
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
23
24
25
26
27
28
30
31
  
       
Today